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CHAPTER XXV. THE NEW KING.
While Philip stood silent and motionless, trying to realize all that the position of a leader of apes might signify, and speculating as to whether it would be possible for him to carry out the part designated by his brute companions, the animals were literally walking over each other in their efforts to show allegiance or to give proof of joy at his return.

Philip’s first official act was to study closely the countenances of those nearest, to discover if they were perplexed or suspicious because he did not answer their chattering.

The owner of Philip’s skin must have been a quiet sort of fellow and one who was not given to conversation, for his delighted subjects appeared to think there was nothing strange in this silence of their king after so long an absence.

Goliah appeared to be the only member of the party who was not delighted at the sudden turn which affairs had taken; and this was but natural, since it could hardly be expected that a despot will “step down and out” from his high position without showing some signs of sorrow at relinquishing[196] his authority. He accepted the inevitable with remarkably good grace, however, even going so far as to seem pleased at seeing the rightful king come to his own once more.

This was the source of no slight relief to Philip. Had the big baboon attempted to incite a rebellion, it is barely possible that he who had so suddenly discovered himself a monarch would be deposed, for with treason in the camp he would be at the mercy of the conspirators, since, not understanding the language of the realm, he could not employ spies, and his downfall might be even more sudden than his elevation.

But, as has been said, Goliah bore with wonderful equanimity the loss of his crown, and at once installed himself in the office of adviser or member of the privy council, which position one of the slain had probably held prior to the king’s sudden disappearance.

Understanding that not only his high dignities but his life depended upon the naturalness with which he wore the borrowed skin, Philip endeavored to ape the apes, exerting himself to leap about in the most fantastic manner, as he had seen Goliah do during his reign, and, singular as it may seem, his antics were greeted with the most vociferous applause.

The only difficulty he experienced in transforming himself into a brute was his inability to wave the tail back and forth, expressive of pleasure or disapprobation, and his first edict was promulgated[197] privately for his own benefit, to the effect that he must never turn his back upon his courtiers.

It was fully two hours before the delighted throng had finished showing their pleasure at the monarch’s return, and then the crowd gave way sufficiently for him to set out, accompanied by the courtiers and a long train of attendants, to make a general inspection of the one town in his kingdom.

In the hour of his prosperity—if one can be called prosperous who has suddenly been transformed into an ape—Philip did not forget the debt of gratitude he owed the chimpanzee, but immediately directed his steps toward the rear of the buildings, where the unfortunate Ben Bolt still languished behind prison-bars.

As the vast assembly arrived in front of the iron cage on the floor of which lay the poor captive whose only crime consisted in having incurred the displeasure of the vicious Goliah, Alice, who was trying to console the unfortunate chimpanzee as best she could from the outside, darted back in affright, believing the time had come when her mate was to be sacrificed to the vengeance of the baboon.

Even she did not recognize the animal-trainer in his new character; but she evidently had kindly remembrances of him who formerly owned Philip’s skin, for instead of continuing her flight she halted at the edge of the thicket until a gesture from the new king brought her to the bars of the cage once more.

Philip lost no time in unfastening the bolts, and,[198] reassuring the captive as best he could by dumb show, led him forth to where Alice stood, awaiting in painful uncertainty the result of this sudden change of affairs.

Goliah understood even before the chimpanzee did that they were free to go wheresoever they pleased, and he gave, vent to low cries of rage and despair as he saw the two walk away paw in paw, the happiest-looking monkeys in the kingdom.

Even then the deposed ruler did not show the least sign of insubordination; he accepted what was to him the inevitable with becoming resignation, save for the hoarse cries he uttered.

It is not to be wondered at that after this simple act of justice had been done, Philip was wholly at a loss to know how to comport himself in accordance with his dignity. To move even the short distance of a yard without his numerous train of followers was impossible. His life had been spared only at the expense of becoming thoroughly an ape, and it was necessary to play well the part assigned him, until such time as friendly members of his own race should land upon the island.

The thought that Captain Seaworth might succeed in regaining his liberty and return with the colonists was the only thing that sustained him in this trying position. With hands clasped behind his back in a very un-apish attitude, he walked slowly toward his late place of refuge, followed by thousands of his monkey-subjects, all moving as if plunged in the deepest reflection.
 
Arriving at the ruins of the building he seated himself upon the fragments of some timber, trying to decide what his future course of action should be, and the crowd gathered silently around with the utmost show of respect.

While sitting here it was but natural that Philip’s thoughts should revert to the battle so lately and singularly ended, and he looked about him for the bodies of the slain.

Surely hundreds had fallen under his well-directed and continuous fire, but yet not a single corpse was to be seen. Search with his eyes where he would, it was as if the besiegers had suffered no loss whatever; and the reason for such a state of affairs he was not long in divining.

The apes had buried their comrades!

This newly-acquired knowledge led up to a subject which troubled Philip seriously. If any of his devoted followers should chance to discover the skeleton hanging in the mimosas, would they not recognize it as the frame of their former king, and thus be in a position to brand the present monarch as an impostor? Inasmuch as all their dead were consigned to the earth, it would be known at once that this ape had been killed before the appearance of the shipwrecked youth on the island. He already had sufficient proof of their reasoning powers to believe they would readily divine the meaning of the sinister mimosa fruit, more especially since it undoubtedly hung in the same thicket where they saw their king fall.
 
It was necessary to put an end to this possible embarrassment at the very beginning of his reign; but how could it be done? One may think it would be a simple matter to bury the bones near where they were now hanging. Such a plan could indeed have been carried into execution with the greatest facility when Philip was the shipwrecked animal-trainer; but now that he had become king of the island, and was surrounded by hundreds of followers, it was an extremely difficult project, since upon the secrecy of the movement depended its success.

“At all events,” Philip said to himself, “it is useless for me to think of stealing away unobserved just now. I must await an opportunity, and trust to the chapter of accidents that my predecessor’s bones may not be discovered meanwhile.”

As he thus put from his mind this unpleasant contingency, the desire for water, which had been so intense during the past five days, returned with redoubled force, and for the first time did his kingly dignity seem a boon. Now he could quench his thirst with what he pleased, and his followers might exhaust the cupboard of its supply of liquor without his being tempted to partake of a single drop.

Making his way with difficulty through the ruined building he proceeded to the court-yard, and, kneeling at the fountain of crystal water, drank until it seemed as if his thirst would never be satiated, while his subjects, deeming it their duty to do as he did, filled themselves with the cool beverage at imminent[201] danger of bursting, through their excess of loyal devotion.

After this had been done Philip felt the need of rest, and, lying on the greensward under shelter of the awning, prepared to go to sleep.

It was a singular spectacle that met his gaze as he raised himself on one elbow to make sure the apes had not found their way into the kitchen. The entire court-yard and veranda were covered with the recumbent forms of the monkeys, none of whom were probably very sleepy, but all bent on following their king’s example; and in attempting to do this it was necessary to pile themselves on top of each other like sardines in a box.

Although the bed was large it was uncomfortably full, and the unpleasant thought came into Philip’s mind that while remaining upon the island he would probably have the same number of bedfellows every night.

The strangeness of the situation, however, did not prevent him from closing his eyes in slumber, and this blissful unconsciousness might have continued until daybreak had it not been for a decided interruption in the shape of a tropical tempest, which came upon them in all its fury just before midnight.

In an instant the court-yard was a scene of the greatest confusion as the crowd of apes tried to gain shelter in the adjoining buildings, and during the confusion the king’s dignity was completely forgotten.

Even had the main building been intact it would[202] not have sufficed to shelter one-fourth of the party, and, half-ruined as it was, only comparatively few could find in it a refuge from the rain which poured down in torrents.

As a matter of course this obliged the majority of the troop to flee toward the other cottages, and they ran in every direction with apparently not a thought of their recently-returned king. There was no one, however insignificant, who would pause in that tempest to do homage to the monarch, and in a very few seconds the court-yard was so nearly deserted that the king was virtually alone.

This was the opportunity for which Philip had longed, and, perhaps fortunately for him, it had come thus quickly. Now he could steal away unobserved, and bury what might not inaptly be termed his own bones.


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